No Cardinal Sin

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20160924_115408The Cardinals beat the Cubs today, 10-4 at Wrigley.  To say that witnessing the rout was glorious is an understatement.  With today’s win, the Cardinals moved back into a tie for the second National league wild card spot and stayed in contention for the rapidly approaching playoffs.  They also avoided the pain of witnessing the Cubs celebrate their 100th win of the season, stuck at 98 wins with only more game to play against the Cardinals this season (tomorrow night).  It’s also the Cubs last home series of the season, meaning that they won’t be able to celebrate before their home crowd.

This may seem cruel and selfish, but…. YEAH!!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong.  As a resident of the Chicago area, even though I am a Cardinal fan for life, I am glad that the Cubs are having their best season ever.  They seem to be poised to go all the way to the World Series this year.  I just don’t want them to celebrate in front of my Cardinals.

And it would be so sweet if the Cardinals get to play spoiler in the playoffs.  For once, the Cardinals are not the first place team, not expected to be the contender.  Usually it is me listening to Cub fans taunting me, jealous of my good fortune as a baseball fan.

I took Nate to Wrigley today to watch the game, our once a year splurge, I in my Cardinal jersey and Nate in his Cub jersey.  People get a kick out of seeing the father/son rivalry.  We had great seats today, right behind the Cardinal bull pen in right field.  Today’s first pitch was at noon, overcast with the stadium lights on, comfortably cool.  The sun came out by the third inning, our seats out in the sun.  Wonderful.

Days like today are when Nate and I get along best.  Oh, he still acts like a 17 year old with his dad, but he also forgets to act that way as he relaxes in the moment.  We don’t get into deep discussions, but it’s nice to just have time with him for a day.

You won’t see any pictures of me with him here.  There is no way he would allow that.  He also was mortified as I photo bombed three women Cub fans as they posed for a picture.  We were walking up to our seats and I just stepped in.  The women laughed and allowed me in the picture.  Nate was also mortified when they sat directly behind us.

The Cardinals led off with four runs in the top of the first.  The Cubs answered with two runs of their own.  But the Cardinals kept scoring each inning, the Cubs did not.

Good day.  I was in a good mood on the way home after a Cardinal win, bought Italian beef (Buona) for Nate, his first experience with the delicacy.

I also wore my Cub kryptonite today.  No Cub fan gives me any guff when I wear one of my Cardinal World Series hats!fb_img_1474748498849

Tater Tonight

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It seems as though I have earned a couch potato evening.  Heck, I even came home to warm food waiting for me.  The food was frozen pizza, but at least it was food.  I am accustomed to making my own dinner most nights.  The past week and a half has found me on a bicycle nearly every day.  With shorter days comes a little bit of urgency to get rides in while the clock runs out on the riding season.  I have been taking my mountain bike with me to work, zipping to the trails as soon as quitting time comes.

It doesn’t hurt that the weather has cooperated.  There hasn’t been much mud lately.  With my injured calf muscle nearly healed, I am riding like this whole riding thing is a new thing to me.  This past weekend found me happy that I could finally push myself harder, although a mechanical put a damper on that a little bit.  Let’s just say that my seat was suddenly prone to moving suddenly back  in the middle of a sharp drop — and I got tired of getting goosed.  No amount of tightening the seat bolt would solve the problem.  Finally, I took the seat off and looked at the seat post clamps.  They turned out to be the culprit, the front of each clamp worn slightly smooth.  My local bike shop mechanic took a look, moved each clamp to the opposite side, added some compound that is normally used to keep carbon components from slipping, and the problem was fixed.  Monday night, I had one of the most glorious rides I have had in quite a while — fast, agile, and in perfect weather.  During the course of the ride, I caught and passed at least three riders.  Funny, at the beginning of the ride I felt sluggish, but somewhere along the trail a switch flipped and I felt great.

Tonight I need to rest and also need to tend to responsibilities.  I need to pay bills.  For once, it looks like I have enough to pay everything and have money left when everything is paid.  YES!!!!  And I received an insurance settlement check from my auto accident at the beginning of the year.  When the bills from that accident are paid, I am going to have money left.

It is so tempting spend that extra money on a bike.  I won’t.  But it is tempting!

Stud

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It has been a week of revival for me.  After weeks of near mindless inactivity, I am able to ride again without worry of damaging my injured calf muscle.  Labor day, I tried out single track by riding a short ride, not pushing hard and my calf wrapped tightly.  The muscle passed, although I could feel the knot where the muscle is torn, reminding me that all is not yet right.  On cue, the muscle swelled with a vengeance, complaining about the exertion that I subject it to.

This week found me a little more than four weeks past the injury, a critical point, itching to test it out some more.  I packed my mountain bike onto the back of my car Sunday morning with the hope of rolling some dirt after church.  Patience rewarded me, although I had to find a place to change once I reached the trails, public nakedness exposed briefly as I changed into my bike shorts in a remote cul de sac close by the trail head.  I managed to ride at a good but not full effort for a little over an hour, cut short by a sagging rear shock and under inflated rear tire.  My pedals were scraping in the low spots, a sign that something was not right.  It felt great to ride again, nonetheless.

Tuesday, I raced home from work, ready for another dirt ride.  I went to get my mountain bike from the garage, discovered a flat tire on the rear wheel.  Duh.  That was part of the clearance problem on Sunday.  The flat was fixed quicly, but for some reason the through axle would not catch for close to an hour.  Once I finally got it to catch, daylight was waning.  I drove to the trails any way, managing an hour of riding despite low light.

I am riding again.  That is all that matters.

Last night, more single track, this time at near 100% effort.  I feel like a stud again.

Yes, I am a stud.

20160915_192106It’s a beautiful evening.  Time to kick back, hope for dry trails this weekend.  I took tonight off, just enjoying the weather out on my back deck, grilled brats and a brew.

Heaven could be now.  Mountain bike in cool weather.  Evenings with a book.

Back In Pad

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♫Back in pad
I hit the saddle
I’ve been too long I’m glad to be back
Yes, I’m let loose
From the noose
That’s kept me hanging about
I’ve been looking at the sky
‘Cause it’s gettin’ me high
Forget the hearse ’cause I never die
I got nine lives
Cat’s eyes
Cruisin’ every one of them and running wild
‘Cause I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back, back
Well, I’m back in pad
Yes, I’m back in pad
Back in the back
Of a mountain bike
Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack
Yes, I’m in a bang
With a gang
They’ve got to catch me if they want me to hang
‘Cause I’m back on the track
And I’m beatin’ the flack
Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap
So look at me now
I’m just makin’ my play
Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way
‘Cause I’m back
Yes,… ♫
Four weeks with very little turn of the pedals and when I did, I had to spend an hour or two with ice on my calf muscle, elevated above my heart.  Every time I did even a mild spin, my leg and foot swelled to Big Trouble In Little China proportions.
2016-rando-previewI rode Saturday, 30 something miles with several friends, testing out the route for an upcoming taco ride (Rando de Taco).  We rode a real comfortable pace from taco stand to taco stand, rating the tacos and deciding if that taco stand was worthy to be on this year’s route.  Six riders having a blast.  Mir and Nate went out to the city for the evening, leaving me open to socialize some more, so I joined my taco riding friends for a brew at a craft brewery (Solemn Oath in Naperville, Illinois), then dinner.
It really wasn’t what I had in mind for a Saturday ride, but Friday night and Saturday morning was a consistent heavy rain.  Much to my chagrin, I could not ride singletrack.  I rode with friends instead.
Sunday was gorgeous — and over an hour on singletrack at 75% effort.  I nearly held my usual average of 12.3 mph for the ride, but I chose not to push it too hard.  My injured calf responded favorably, did not swell when the ride was finished.
I’m back in pad(ded shorts).

Down The Hatch or Down the Drano

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This may be a story that I have told here before.  If I have and you remember it, sorry.  Good thing is that I tell this story a little differently each time, although the specific details are the same.

My mother was good about teaching my brothers and I to be responsible for ourselves.  We cleaned our own room, made our beds, cleaned our bathroom, washed our clothes (and folded them, put them away), vacuumed the rugs, picked up after ourselves.  I am the oldest of three boys and, once I reached an age where I was able to put gas in a push mower and negotiate our yard with the mower, care of the lawn became my job.  Dad still likes to mention that he never had to mow after I was 8 years old, except for when he just wanted to do it.  My brothers and I also were responsible for waking up in time for school, dressing ourselves, and getting ourselves either to the bus stop or walking to school.  That also meant that we prepared our own brown bag lunch.  Mom made sure there was bread and fixings, as well as chips or whatever else we needed — as long as we put in the request for what we needed for our lunches when she prepared her weekly grocery list.

Lunch got me in trouble.  The high school that I attended was fairly small, roughly 400 students for freshman through senior grade levels.  Our building consisted of two long hallways lined with lockers, with a commons area in between that opened into a courtyard.  Across the courtyard was the shop area where trade classes were taught, as well as the main gym and lunch room building.  My locker was located at the end of the long hallway, next to the main doors that led outside to the courtyard, the doors that many students took to and from the gym or lunch or shop class.  It was also next to the band room, the reason my locker was at the end, since I was a band student (trumpet players are the best kissers, as I have been told by more than one young lady).

My locker was in a perfect spot for those less than honest students, who were inclined to steal.  Three days in a row, my lunch was stolen out of my locker, a big deal to me since it was during track season.  I needed my nutrition for after school practices and meets.  For my lunch, I started keeping it with my band instrument in the band room — not always convenient as the band room often was locked for my lunch period.  My teen mind did not want to report the thefts to the school principal, the most logical thing to do.

So, one morning I decided that the solution would be to make two lunches — one that I would eat and one that was doctored.  In typical teen fashion, I was trying to work this out quickly and at the last minute before I had to leave for school, while I was making my lunch.  I spread one piece of bread with a thick layer of peanut butter, the other with an equally thick layer of grape jelly (Mom always lamented how fast we went through jars of peanut butter and grape jelly).  Hmmmmm… what else needed to go on the sandwich?

“Mom, do we have any ExLax?”  Mom furrowed her brows at me with an expression of mild confusion, an expression she gave to me frequently.  Funny thing is that she knew better than to ask why, which she should have done.  She just said no and carried on with her own task.

I took the task of finding a way to doctor that sandwich into my own hands, utilizing the do it yourself and take responsibility my mother had instilled in me.  What to use?  I searched the bathroom medicine cabinet, the logical place since maybe Mom had just forgotten about the ExLax.  None.  In the vanity under the bathroom sink, I found what seemed to be the solution.  I didn’t think about the solution being potentially criminal.  I just thought that the lunch perpetrators would see this substance and be deterred.  That should work, right?  I carried that can of crystal Drano (that’s drain cleaner) to the kitchen, poured a layer of the large blue crystals on top of the peanut butter, slopped some more peanut butter over the Drano, slapped the jelly laden slice of grape jelly on top, wrapped the PBDranoJ sandwich, and put it into a paper bag.

Voila.

I find out part of the result by third class period.  In between classes, I was slammed up against my locker by an angry Gary Ayers, a fellow senior who had discovered the benefits of weighlifting, one of the largest guys in the school.

“What did you put in your lunch?” he yelled, fists balled in a threat.

I know I was grinning.  “I have no idea what you are talking about, Gary.”

Gary’s girlfriend, Janet, had eaten my lunch before gym class, according to Gary’s story.

“How did she get my lunch?”  Once again, I know that there was a wide grin on my face.

Gary raised a large fist, intended to punch that grin off of my face.  Before he could deliver, a few of my friends stepped in between, allowing me to escape and get to class.  This would not be over, I knew, but at least the mayhem was delayed.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of Gary, but I didn’t want to be suspended from school for fighting.  There was only one track meet left in the season, it was my senior year and I did not want to miss that meet.

Fifth period.  Principal Bill Hinrichs appeared at the classroom door, motioned for me to join him out in the hall.  He was shaking his head with an expression that was between amusement and disbelief.  Mister Hinrichs was that type of person, a math teacher before becoming school principal, one of my favorite teachers.  I had done very well in his classes, had also done well a few years before when I played basketball for the team he assisted as coach.  As he escorted me to his office, he continued to shake his head every time he glanced at me.  When we arrived at his office, he offered me a seat across from his desk, next to the school nurse who was waiting for us.

He went straight to the point.  “Steve, what did you put on your sandwich?”

I looked him straight in the eye, told him exactly what was on the sandwich.

The school nurse gasped.  Mister Hinrichs simply rested his forehead on his hand while shaking his head some more and muttering Henrikson over and over.

Three girls stole my lunch on their way out the door to gym class.  They had a master key to the lockers, so they were able to get to it easily.  As they waited for roll call before gym class, they split the sandwich.  They didn’t see the crystal Drano.  I had done too good of a job concealing it in the thick layers of peanut butter and grape jelly.  They never had a chance to swallow their bite of sandwich, their mouths instantly foaming and slight burns on their tongues as they spit the sandwich out.

I am fortunate that I attended a small school where teachers and administrators had the chance to know their students and their families.  There was no police involved, just a school nurse gasping in shock and a relieved/amused/amazed school administrator.

“You do know, Steve, that this could have been much worse.”  Mister Hinrichs told me the names of the three girls, “Every one of those girls has a big boyfriend.  These girls stole your lunch, so essentially they got what they deserved but GEEEEEEEEZ couldn’t you have used something else?  ExLax maybe?”

Mister Hinrichs actually laughed when I calmly responded with the obvious answer — we didn’t have any ExLax.  I had checked.

“Really, I wouldn’t do anything to you at all since this was a case of theft, but I also don’t want a fight to deal with.  I have called your mom and she knows that you are coming home right now.  You are going to be suspended for three days.”

That meant I would miss the last regular season track meet.  That hurt, but I didn’t argue.  I knew I was lucky that was all that I was missing.

My parents responded in the same fair, reasonable, sensible manner that they always had when I got in trouble.  By my senior year of high school, they had a lot of experience.  They were both shocked, both relieved, both understood that I had luckily survived a very stupid event in my life.  They said that I would also be punished, basically was being grounded those two days of suspension.  My parents called up the parents of each girl, took me that evening to each of their houses, and I had to personally apologize to each girl.

There were a lot of events in my young life that I survived with little or no damage to my life or reputation.  Some might call that survival simple good fortune, some might call it an over qualified guardian angel, some might call it a God thing.  I call it being raised by two loving, common sense, committed parents who always have and will have my back — and that itself could be a God thing.  I have needed and always will need them.

 

Reunion

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I missed my titanium and I think it missed me.

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The new rear wheel performed famously.  I think I will keep it.

My recovering appendage responded without complaint.  It did, however, require some babying once I got home.  There was swelling.  It has been three weeks, three long weeks.  Sitting around waiting for an injury to heal properly is excrutiating.. and I am not talking about pain.  Waiting sucks.  I know that if I go out and ride the trails, I will most certainly reinjure the muscle.

So I reacquaint myself with the old Serotta.  Honestly, it felt good to ride the road again, enjoy the steady rhythm of my legs and the pleasant zen of maintaining speed.

Plus, I must admit that my titanium bike felt like a feather underneath me.  My dual suspension aluminum mountain bike is fairly light for a mountain bike, but that titanium frame is a fraction of the weight.  There really is something satisfying about how a good, strong, agile bike feels.  When I am on a bike, it feels like life is going to respond the same way and the euphoria is unlike anything else — and it’s all natural.

One more week until singletrack……

Trust

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Parenthood must mean being able to accept that you are a complete and total fool.  I am over qualified.

Remember my last blog, the one where I talked about my son taking a trip to Lake Geneva to meet a friend, then go watch girls they know from summer camp play in a volleyball tournament?

I forget that every teenager at one time or another is going to lie to their parent(s).  Am I wrong or am I right?  All I know is that there might have just been a time or two that I deceived my own parents when I was a teenager.

Paybacks are a… BITCH.

Late Saturday night, Nate called me to ask if he could stay overnight with his friend in Lake Geneva.  It was 9:30, late enough that I thought it best that he did not drive home in the dark, so I reminded him that I did not want to go all weekend without my car and I wanted him home early the next morning.  Bedtime came for me and I rested peacefully knowing that my son was safe.

I was roused from my sleep around 1:30 in the morning by a frantic wife, babbling about how I had made a mistake by restricting our son’s phone so he would not be able to place a call after midnight.  She yelled at me to give her the phone number for our cell carrier so she could change that.

Oh, and then she told me that Nate was calling her from a Walmart parking lot in Grinnell, Iowa, nearly 5 hours away from our home in the western Chicago suburbs.  He was calling from the Walmart manager’s phone.

She kept yelling at me as I stumbled downstairs to get my PC and check the status of his phone via our cell phone carrier’s website.  Nate was telling a fib.  He was not restricted on the weekend.  Truth was, he had ignored my admonition to take his phone charging cord with him.  His phone battery was nearly dead.

His plan was to sleep overnight in the Walmart parking lot.  He needed money.. because he actually had not saved his money as he had told us.  He needed gas because the gas tank was nearly empty.

The girl from camp lives in Grinnell, Iowa.  The things we boys do for love.

Do I need to say that I was angry?  I grabbed the keys to Miriam’s car, muttering threats that the boy would never ever drive my car again.  I also had muttered something not too kind when my wife was yelling from the top of the stairs, something I had to apologize for before I left to go find the prodigal.  It was 2 AM.

I arrived in Grinnell a little before 7 AM on Sunday.  Good thing it was a long drive because I had time to think about things, decide that being angry would only hurt me.  So I found Nate at the Walmart, knocked on the window to get his attention, asked him how he was doing and what he planned on doing.

“I’m going to church with her in a few hours, then head home.  Are you going to make me come home?”

“No, you’re here and even though I probably should, I am not going to ruin this for you.  I am going to go with you to a gas station, fill this car with gas, then give you some cash for food and in case you need more gas to get home.  We’ll talk about this when you get home.”

And that’s what I did.  I was angry, did my best to control the anger, may have even been a bit too nice to him.  We got the gas and the money, I said good bye, and turned back to Chicagoland in Miriam’s car.  I got home at 1 PM, headed up to bed, slept 2 hours.  Miriam was gone when I woke, didn’t get home until Nate got home — at 10:30 that night.

Yesterday I spent some time talking to my parents about it, then talked to Miriam.  We decided on a punishment, then had the talk with Nate last night.  No car privileges until October and future trips will be limited.

OK, looks like I call him my boy, not my young man, for a while longer.

On a positive note — he lied, but wasn’t getting into trouble.  I tried to give him credit for that when I talked to him.

Until next time….

First close shave

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My boy is 17, started his senior year of high school last week.  Nate is a big boy, 6’2″ tall and roughly 210 pounds.  I still have to describe him as a boy, not a young man, because he still has a ton of growing up to do, a bit of catch up maturity wise.  Instead of giving reasons why I think that, I will skip the explanation.  A lot of his maturity is a product of this day and age, video games and skimpy responsibility.  That’s enough.

Last year, our daughter Alyssa was a live in camp counselor at a bible camp located on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Living there was heaven for her, a job well suited to her nurturing personality, a chance to deal one on one with kids in varying age groups from ages 8 to 17.  Her last week of camp last summer was as counselor for the coed high school group.  Somehow she helped us convince her pessimistic brother to attend that week of camp.

Camp weeks start on Sunday afternoon and finish the following Saturday morning.  The day before that week of camp was to start was difficult to say the least, a fight with a waffling boy who changed his mind.. with a fight… many times that day.  Sunday morning came, his suitcase packed in our car, and more cajoling ensued.  The whole 90 minute drive found me wishing that I had noise cancelling ear plugs, what with the constant fighting between Nate and his mother, as well as his insistence that I turn the car around.  We got to the camp with more struggle.  Registration ended at 2 PM.  We registered him, but he fought us so hard to take him home that I finally just said OK, let’s go home.  We loaded him back in the car and started driving him back towards Illinois.

Eventually his mother won the fight.  Nate not only stayed for the week of camp, but he thoroughly enjoyed it.  The guys in his cabin were athletic and big, like Nate, the same types of personalities.  He made great friends, enough that he stayed in contact with them all year after camp was over.

I also saw pictures of him, pictures I am not sure he wanted me to see, of him with a cute little petite girl, his arm around her and a big smile on his face.  Hmmmmm.

A few weeks ago, he went to camp again.  There was no fight this time.  He made sure that he got in the same cabin with his friends from last year.  After camp, he has borrowed my car several times to go see those friends.

Today, he borrowed my car to drive to Lake Geneva.  It took some persistence to get information out of him of who he was going to see and why I couldn’t just drive him.  He coughed up the information after I told him that he was not getting my car until he told me.

He and one of his friends were going to watch their camp girlfriends play in a volleyball tournament.  OK.  Good enough reason.  I wouldn’t want my dad around either.

Nate is a fair skinned blue eyed curly haired blonde.  He has never shaved until this morning.  I showed him how, helped him finish the shave after he shaved with my supervision.  The blonde fuzz cooperated fairly well, a bit more there than I realized.  But he cleaned up well.

Miracle of all miracles.. he called a few minutes ago to let me know that he got there OK.  He also asked how much money that I thought he was going to have to spend on gas.  One of the stipulations of my agreeing to let him go was that he had to use his own money for the trip, a source of much conflict the past few days.  For possibly the first time ever, he was expected to conserve his resources and not blow his money on fast food or video games.  It was tough, but he did it.

It’s a start.  Maybe, just maybe, “young man” might be coming from my lips some time soon.  I hope so.  Honestly, I was skeptical until now.  We’ll see!

It works

Yes.  It works.  I wasn’t sure that it would after so much time of being dormant.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

After two weeks of resting my faulty calf muscle, I decided to give it a test.  Last night, I went out for an hour ride around the neighborhood, a leisurely spin at a very leisurely pace.  There were no whacky ups and downs or twists in the middle of the woods like I am accustomed to.  It was a peaceful ride.  I passed by the house of an old friend, Richard, who just happened to be finishing up replacing the tube on the rear of his old mountain bike.  We rode the last half hour of my ride together, a great time of catching up on news.  He has a daughter with downs syndrome and he shared some of the experiences with her as she has grown into her late teens, a teenage girl who sometimes approaches life with the maturity of the five year old.  She has a crush on a boy at church, a boy who treats her nicely, but also has a girlfriend.  His daughter wrote a story that involved the boy taking her to the lake for a picnic, along with his girlfriend who fell into the lake.  She actually shared the story with the boy and his girlfriend before Richard knew she had written the story!

So tonight, after no ill affects from last night’s ride, I went out for 25 miles with a couple of friends.  I rode fairly well.  However, the leg swelled up enough that there was an indentation where my sock and shoe had been.  I am elevating and icing the leg as I write this blog.

A few more weeks and I will be bombing singletrack.  Yippee!!!!

Did Christ Slander?

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I found the video that the abortion abolitionists have posted on YouTube, with a link to that video on their FB page.  The post on the FB reads as such:

While exhorting lost sheep to rise up and practice (James 1:27) a man representing Yellow Box church in Naperville IL, chose to physically use his much larger body to force himself upon our much smaller but braver sister.

Not shown in this video, is a pastor who comes out and shakes the hand of the attacker after it was brought to his attention.

Hashtags included were RealMenDontForceThemselvesOnWomen, EphesiansFiveEleven, among others.  (How about RealChristiansDontForceThemselvesOnOtherChristiansOrCondemnThem?)

The link to a video of my encounter with them followed.  I was glad in a way to see it, only because I wanted to see if I handled myself the way I thought I had.  I had.  I approached the woman reasonably and my exasperation at the end of the short confrontation was very clear.  I didn’t want that, felt the ire beginning to rise, and that’s why I walked away.  It was so obvious that I was being played, something very obvious when I viewed videos of other confrontations that they have posted.

I created an anonymous FB account and commented.  I was nice, believe me, I was.  I commented that there was bullying, but not by the man with the “larger body”.  I said that the man approached with a reasonable request, received an unreasonable reaction that was looking for conflict.  True to their character, I received a reply to my FB comment within seconds — so you think it is ok for him to force himself on her and that it was her fault.

Where was the forcing?  I asked.

He grabbed her and violently dragged her down the sidewalk was the response.

I do not see any grabbing or violence at all.  How can you say that except to try to justify slander?

My comments as well as theirs were immediately deleted.  I am blocked from commenting on their FB site.  Two particularly acidic comments made by their own members on the video they posted of me were also deleted, presumably to prevent them from being painted badly.  They did not, however, delete a comment that said this —

“The same church where lesbians are serving communion”.

If you are interested, I will post instructions on how to find the FB page and video in my comments.  Please be kind if you post any comments and I encourage you not to.